City Attorney May Change as Position Opens Up

Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 11:24 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Above: Tom Yeadon and the McGinty firm offices along Abbot Road

Without discussion, last night East Lansing’s City Council passed a resolution authorizing City Manager George Lahanas to put out a call for proposals for a new City Attorney. This follows the City maintaining no-bid contracts for counsel with the East Lansing-based McGinty firm since the 1960s. Tom Yeadon of the McGinty firm has acted as our City’s chief counsel since 2012.

The resolution says that the City Council “desires to examine, consider and review the cost of legal services provided to the City” and says that “The most expedient way to accomplish that objective is to issue a Request for Proposal to Provide Legal Services.” The resolution instructs the City Manager to “invite applicants to submit relevant information and proposals.”

Legal services are currently costing East Lansing taxpayers upwards of a half-million dollars per year. Some say that cost could be reduced by using a different firm or an in-house counsel.

In 2012, East Lansing’s City Council considered opening up the field to new bids, following a number of controversies. But Council elected then to renew Yeadon’s contract.

Yeadon was then under criticism for what the Lansing State Journal deemed “the bureaucratic collapse” of the St. Anne Lofts projects on Albert Street. In that case, construction was done without the proper permits, a fifth floor was added without approval, and one construction application before Council was presented in the name of a company that had earlier been dissolved, with Yeadon telling Council they could proceed without a legal applicant. The project suffered collapse of a floor during construction.

Yeadon has also been the target of criticism for other City matters, including advising City Council on an easement agreement involved in the reconstruction of the retaining wall along the Abbot Road sidewalk just outside the City attorney’s private offices. In that case, Yeadon did not specifically disclose to Council that he was a co-owner in the company with which the City was entering into the easement agreement. The City paid over $100,000 to fix the retaining wall.

The McGinty’s firm’s long record of success in defending the City in litigation has often been cited as a major reason to maintain the McGinty firm as the City’s chief legal counsel.

At last night’s meeting, City Council used the consent agenda to approve the resolution to seek proposals for a new city attorney. That means Council had no discussion of it and simply passed the resolution in a 5-0 vote along with many other items.

 

To read what else happened at Council this week, check out ELi's weekly Council Capsule.

 

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